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Dell releases powerful, well-supported Linux Ultrabook (arstechnica.com)
520 points by iProject on Nov 29, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 349 comments

I was one of the beta testers for this laptop, so I've been using it for the last few months. [If anybody has any questions about it, I'd be happy to answer them - I've used many different laptops over the years for comparison.]

I couldn't be happier with it - I have a larger laptop that I use as my "main" computer at home (essentially as if it were a desktop), and the XPS13 is what I take with me everywhere and use for presentations, developing on the go, etc.

I've used Linux as my main OS for some years now, and for me the main appeal of this computer was the size/weight/battery life when compared to my larger laptop. If you've been waiting for a Linux ultrabook for portable development (or even just ultra-portable general use), this is it.

Compared to my work computer (a Macbook Air), the difference is enormous. Hardware-wise, the XPS13 just feels slimmer, even though the difference in size/weight is negligible. The biggest physical differences are the keys and trackpad - I'm typing this now on a mechanical keyboard, and I've gotten so used to the Das Keyboard that I can't stand the feel of chiclet-style keys. However, the shape of the XPS13 keys (slightly indented) alleviates some of the annoyances I have with most laptop keyboards (the Air included). The trackpad is highly sensitive, and I like the texture slightly more than that of the Macbook Air.

Battery life is great, even with Bluetooth turned on (though I usually leave this off - I still haven't found a real use for Bluetooth on my computers!).

I should mention the display - it's the perfect size for me. I actually dislike the Macbook Air on this one point - it absolutely kills my eyes by the end of the day (both the default size and default brightness/contrast). I have neither of these problems with the XPS13, but it's still crisp enough that I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

Overall, I'm incredibly happy that I got it, and I actually get slightly annoyed now when I have to use my Macbook Air for work - I wish I could be using the XPS13 instead. Aside from the fact that I'd rather be using Linux any day, hands-down, the computer just feels more physically appealing in itself. Even at its price[1], it's worth every penny.

[1] I should note that I received my testing laptop at a 20% discount, though after using it, I would be willing to pay full price for it if I'd had to.

I also am a beta tester for this laptop.

I use my retina macbook for everything, and have not found myself using the dell at all, even when traveling. I didn't consider bringing it because I like the Mac so much more.

It is really nice hardware, with the exception that the screen has a much narrower viewing angle than either my macbook or my wife's macbook air. Also the trackpad is not as smooth as my macbook's, and more frequently registers the wrong kind of click.

Ubuntu has worked very well, and seems to be completely supported.

I greatly prefer the mac hardware, and would recommend an Air over the Dell.

edit: since parent disclosed that he got 20% off, I'll disclose that I was very fortunate to receive one for free at a conference raffle.

Please don't get me wrong or take it the wrong way,

But I just can't seem to get over the fact that you are obviously not a Linux person (you seem to have strong preferences and by the looks of it, you know well that you are very much a Mac person), who won a Linux laptop for free and hasn't used it at all.

Had you but magnanimously declined the offer and passed it on, someone else could have used it happily all along....

There's also some starving child in Africa that could've gone to bed with a refrigerator full of sandwiches if you sold this thing on eBay.

Why jump on someone for giving their opinions on a product they won at a raffle? Are you supposed to decline prizes because you might not like them?

Also, what the hell is a "Linux person"? Is that someone who doesn't consider a day complete without compiling their own kernel extensions?

> Also, what the hell is a "Linux person"? Is that someone who doesn't consider a day complete without compiling their own kernel extensions?

Maybe I count as a linux person because I've written my own kernel extension?

Here's a handy guide:

Level. Description

-10. Macintosh/Windows evangelist

0. Never heard of linux

1. Heard of linux, never used it

2. Tried linux once in '97, didn't get OSS working, gave up

3. Tried linux, couldn't make it be exactly like some other OS, gave up

4. Uses linux from time to time at home and/or at work as a server os

5. Uses linux as a desktop os when needed

6. Uses linux as a desktop os, but dual/triple boots for some apps

7. Uses linux exclusively

8. Uses linux exclusively and writes kernel patches

9. Uses linux exclusively, writes kernel patches and has touched Linus Torvalds

10. Is Linus Torvalds

11. Is Linus Torvalds's wife

By "Linux person" he means someone who prefers Linux to OSX or Windows for day-to-day use. This person might also be a Linux contributor but does not have to be.

The point of mentioning it seemed to be that someone who is not a regular Linux user will not thoroughly evaluate the laptop because they won't spend enough time on it and use it in enough ways.

Yeah, that's the first thing I thought when I read his post. What a waste - I know several people who would have been delighted to get this laptop.

I would be one of those people, but at 1500 dollars, seems a bit steep, for the hardware involved. I just got my Chromebook (ARM, 3G) and I'm amazed at just how well everything runs on it. But I don't think that the Dell is my target anyway, as I'm more of a u-boot, and kernel work is more my area of expertise rather than shoving things off into the cloud.

Kudos to Dell for doing this, hopefully more vendors will follow suit.

Right, the price is very steep. With that cost, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon would be a much better choice. I would've expected Dell to be able to sell this at a much more competitive price point. But in this case, he got it for free, which is a completely different story.

How good is Ubuntu support out of the box on the X1? I love the look of it as a replacement for my MBP, but I've found compatibility information a bit scarce.

EDIT: Just found your other post! That's really cool that is has such good support.

Yes, I knew a linguist who won a $100 million lottery. Fortunately, he gave the winnings away to an accountant, because he wasn't a "numbers guy."

Give me a break. Do you think Dell really wanted to give this only to customers who loved it? No! The point of these beta tests is to get feedback from people. If they only gave to people who say "it's so great I love it!" what's the point of giving it away at all? They could just sell it to those people. Dell gave out these laptops to hear people like OP's comments so that they might improve their product and actually sell some to their target audience: geeks like Linus who want a portable, well built linux laptop, or geeks who have Apple laptops that would be willing to switch to a comparable linux laptop for whatever reason. Dell was beta testing these to get feedback, not to provide someone else to use their product happily for free.

First off, OP mentioned he got it for free in a conference raffle: Dell already achieved their free publicity/sponsorship/whatever by announcing this laptop in the beginning of the conference, and by the time the raffle winner was announced, it is already out of Dell's hands, and between OP and organisers. At this point, had he mentioned that he is probably not going to be using it at all because of his strong Mac preference, another ticket would have been drawn and hey presto.....

>>> The point of these beta tests is to get feedback from people

Exactly. And that's my main point. In all this time, feedback was not at all achieved (edit: contrast with, say @chimeracoder's review above), because by his own account, he barely used the laptop, ergo, no feedback to Dell or anyone else in the matter.....

Which is why I mentioned in the original comment "someone else could have used it happily all along...." (note the ellipsis, where the ending is left unsaid, as in, it c(w)ould have resulted in feedback, in the very least)

> feedback was _not at all achieved_

To be more precise, _market_ feedback was achieved. A small, pizzling drip of market feedback. When you hand out devices, you're looking for _product_ feedback.

That said, if someone offered me a free laptop, I probably would keep it because I don't own nearly enough laptops.

I have never found a trackpad that works as well as the trackpads on MacBooks.

Simple question but how do you get to be a beta tester for such products?

Can you say more about why you prefer the Mac?

1) it's kind of unfair, because I've been using macs since... 2007 maybe? I was 100% linux from 2002-2007, then switched to macs.

Despite my familiarity with linux, I can't be sure that simple comfort with the Mac OS isn't part of it. I don't much like the new Gnome (haven't used it since 2007, remember), nor do I care to learn how to install a different window manager and thereby spend the time supporting it.

2) The monitor is the biggest issue for me, followed by the mouse.

The monitor is low resolution, and feels very small compared to the retina monitor. Not a fair comparison, I know! But it's the one I make with the two computers side by side.

3) The dell keyboard is just as good as the mac's, and unlike most PCs, the overall hardware package generally feels very solid, simple, and well thought out. The carbon fiber bottom feels very cool. It's not quite as nice as the Air, but it's not too far away.

So, those are basically the reasons that it sits on my desk, unused, next to my macbook. Also, obviously I don't mind travelling with a slightly larger and heavier computer.

> nor do I care to learn how to install a different window manager and thereby spend the time supporting it.

Since you haven't used linux in 5 years I'll be the fanboy that points out Linux, and Ubuntu especially, has grown up a lot since then.

How do you install an application? You open a package manager and hit the install button. Same thing with desktop environments. You want KDE? 'sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop'. Xfce is 'xubuntu-desktop'. Hell, even gnome classic can be installed this way with 'gnome-panel'.

LightDM will automatically notice the new environment. All you have to do is log out, then choose the desktop environment you want and log back in.

Window managers usually take a little more fiddling to install properly but I assume that's not what you meant since you referenced gnome.

I was an ion3 guy back in the day. Installing and configuring those window managers (which I loved!) is why I left linux... I don't want to spend my time futzing around with the computer instead of getting work done.

That makes a lot more sense, as much as I love tiling window managers it's not especially fun to get that far off the beaten path, for exactly the reasons you've mentioned.

ion3 is the high water mark for simplicity and actually getting things done.

We are all poorer for Tuomo Valkonen no longer producing this.

Yes, ion3 was by far the best tiling wm in its time, and probably still is (I haven't seen another wm implement the tabbed frames metaphor yet).

I wish someone would port it to OSX (not X11). I'd pay serious money for a license and I imagine quite a few others would, too.

Unfortunately that's not the sort of thing osx is amenable to.

I think it might be doable, although it would take quite some skill and nasty hacks.

The various half-assed "click-to-arrange" utilities (SizeUp et al) demonstrate that windows can be placed, sized, hidden and shown programmatically.

Other utilities demonstrate that mouse-position, clicks etc. can be detected and intercepted, and that you can render raster-overlays on top of the desktop. Window drop shadows can be disabled, the window chrome probably can't - but I wouldn't mind that.

An ion for OSX would probably have to draw its GUI (grid and tabs) as an overlay and then arrange the windows underneath. It would probably also have to intercept all mouse-actions and decide whether to pass them on.

The devil will obviously be in the details, and there will be lots of them. But in principle it doesn't seem impossible to go from something like http://www.tylerwm.com to something that actually works...

I am using ion3 right now. It's pretty cool. Feels a bit limited though, I'm thinking of maybe transitioning to something more ... awesome ;] .

Ubuntu has made remarkable strides, but overall usability is stuck somewhere between Windows 95 and Windows XP. On the whole that's not bad, but compared to systems with more refinement, which would include Windows 7 and OS X, it does look rather rickety.

There's nothing technically in the way of Ubuntu being a first class operating system that way except for someone to spend a lot of time designing it from a holistic standpoint. The inconsistencies and lack of attention to detail are what separate the approximations of good UX to great UX.

If you think `apt-get` is even remotely user friendly, you're not seeing the forest for the trees. Ubuntu has an incredible collection of software and with the right interface it would be even easier to use than MacPorts, Homebrew, or any app store out there, but this is going to take time to make happen.

Also be careful what you describe as "fiddling" because for most people that means "beat head against wall until bleeding, then throw computer out window".

Depends on what you mean by "usability" ..

For me, LInux/BSD is much more usable than Windows 7 & Mac OSX for some tasks. Windows wins some as well. I cant think of, at the top of my head, anything OSX does best usability wise for me. But it's also the OS i use the least.

It combines a first-class graphical user environment with a fully UNIX-compliant command-line environment. For a web developer it really is as good as it gets. You get to run your text, image, audio or video editor in the graphical environment and the same server applications as you'd use on your production server.

With Linux you'll have to make compromises on the desktop side, as there's a smaller choice of first-class applications, and on Windows your server selection is extremely limited in comparison.

Linux has an amazing command-line infrastructure, though only slightly better than OS X, and mostly this is just to do with having better package managers.

Windows has an amazing desktop environment, very responsive (on the right hardware) and with deep application support for high-performance 3D. Linux is making strides here, and OS X is often close but limited by the capabilities of OpenGL and the slightly less refined drivers.

Agree on the pros of OSX for web development but for me that is less and less important. Today you can so easily use VMs (eg. vagrant) to really have the same enviroment for dev/qa/production it doesnt really matter what OS you prefer.

The beauty of Apple for me is much more about the exceptional hardware quality thats blends with very good software

It's worth pointing out that "apt-get" is not what the typical user will be using, and hasn't been for many years.

The typical user will open the software centre GUI, or just press Windows and start typing a package name or search term.

1) I don't care about most people. My comment was directed at a developer who wouldn't have any troubles learning if he decides to switch back.

2) I find it hard to imagine an interface that's simpler than opening a terminal and typing 'apt-get install gnome-panel'. Sure, there's a chance you'll have to type 'Y' and confirm that you really wanted to install that many packages, but I think the fact that it asks instead of blindly downloading and applying a ton of packages actually a data point /for/ the 'user friendly apt-get' case.

> The monitor is the biggest issue for me, followed by the mouse.

That's interesting, because the mouse is one of the biggest turnoffs for me when it comes to OS X. I never could get used to the acceleration curve[0], despite installing 3rd party software[1] to modify it.

There's also the issue of not having a pointing stick on Macs, but that's another subject entirely.

0: http://tidbits.com/article/8893

1: http://triq.net/mac/mouse-acceleration-preference-pane-mac-o...

Mouse acceleration is something you get used to pretty quickly, a full day of usage is enough to not even notice it anymore. I use both OSX (trackpad), windows with a 1600dpi mouse, and play games with acceleration disabled. For work I prefer OSX's acceleration, it feels more precise/natural.

I used a Mac for work for months and never got used to it, but obviously YMMV.

I've noticed the curve seems to strangely vary between different Macs and different mice.

On some of my Macs I had to install software to fix it, on some it just felt right from the start. I never kept track to make out a pattern, but it may be worth trying out a different mouse.

I never got used to the OS X mouse curve either. The mouse acceleration on the Mac has always been a bit leaden at low speeds, and too fast at higher speeds, even with Mac OS. It's odd, because the trackpad acceleration is very well done.

The best solution I've found is to buy a Microsoft mouse. As with most Microsoft hardware, they're good value. You can then use the supplied Intellipoint for Mac OS X software, which, along with a bunch of pointless junk, lets you activate a Windows-style acceleration curve. It might sound daft, but this utterly transformed my experience of OS X.

There's also the issue of not having a pointing stick on Macs

Isn't it the case that the Dell ultrabook also does not have a pointing stick? Hopefully someone can chime in and confirm/deny this. I looked on the site, and it appears not to have one.

Its not hard to turn it off altogether.


I mentioned the 3rd party software in your link ("Mouse Acceleration Preference Pane") in my initial post as something I'd tried. In any case, it was a work machine and I'm no longer there, so it's not particularly important anymore.

This drives me crazy on the Mac as well. My solution is to just use the trackpad.

> 2007 maybe? I was 100% linux from 2002-2007, then switched to macs.

> Despite my familiarity with linux, I can't be sure that simple comfort with the Mac OS isn't part of it.

That's probably the reason, honestly - I'm coming at this as a daily Linux user who already knows how everything works, and all I want is that same experience on an Ultrabook.

I can't speak for Dell, but I don't think this laptop could/should really compete for the same audience as the Macbook Air... if you're happy with using OS X on Apple hardware - if it's "good enough" - there's probably not much that could get you to switch.

In my case, Linux is my first choice by far, so the choice between using my Ultrabook and using my work computer always results in me reaching for the ultrabook.

Agree with everything, except:

> I don't think this laptop could/should really compete for the same audience as the Macbook Air

I assume their market for this machine would be towards devs who might otherwise use an Air? I think of this machine as competing directly against the Air, which is why I used it as a comparison.

Why you don't think they're competing?

(This comment is meant in as non-combative a way as possible, I liked your response a lot. I hate the internet?)

> Why you don't think they're competing?

Oh, they very well may be (probably are, in fact). I'm just saying that it's better to think of it as a laptop for Linux users who want something Air-like, as opposed to Air users who want Linux.

That's simply because it's much harder to replace something that's "good enough", even with something that's hands-down better on all fronts (take a look at Plan 9 vs. UNIX[1])

For users like me, a Mac isn't even close to "good enough", so I like some of the additional things this provides versus other solutions (installing Linux manually on another Ultrabook or on a laptop and providing my own support). For users who are already happy with a Macbook Air, this is probably good enough if you couldn't use your Air, but the added convenience may not compensate the friction of changing, even if you've used Linux in the past.

In other words, that friction doesn't exist for existing Linux users.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plan_9_from_Bell_Labs#Impact

That's fair. If you're a linux user who wants something air-like, I imagine this computer would suit you very well.

As someone who's been using a Mac since 2008-ish, beginning with a 17" A4, I'm really considering buying this Dell and moving to Ubuntu permanently. I have a few gripes with Apple laptops and I was wondering if you could refute or lend an opinion on why(or why not) the Dell would be an option.

1) I really hate the hardware upsell. With this XPS machine I'm getting a 256gb SSD, 8G RAM, and an 3GHz i7 processor. The comparable hardware for a 13" Retina is $2,200 and it's still not as light or thin. The comparable Air is missing a GHz of processing speed and still costs an extra $150. Also, there isn't a team of OEM Apple developers writing Ubuntu PPA support for either machine, so I'm stuck on OS X again, which I'm pretty disillusioned with.

2) I'm actually still not really clear what the advantage of a retina display is. Maybe it's because I haven't been able to use one for a significant timespan, but I just don't get it. If there was a way to clearly and easily illustrate why a 13" display benefits from retina resolution, I'd really appreciate it.

3) I'm kind've ready for a change from Apple products. I haven't used a high end laptop or PC from any other manufacturer and I feel like I don't know what I'm missing, if I'm missing anything.

If you or the other XPS tester can respond at all, thanks in advance.

>2) I'm actually still not really clear what the advantage of a retina display is. Maybe it's because I haven't been able to use one for a significant timespan, but I just don't get it. If there was a way to clearly and easily illustrate why a 13" display benefits from retina resolution, I'd really appreciate it.

How good is your eyesight? Honest question. The difference is night and day for me and I wonder how I lived with that blurry thing for so long.

Not very good, honestly. From what I've read, switching to a higher resolution wont really give me more work space, just make things more crisp, but I'm not sure how significant that would be for someone who wears corrective lenses already.

Maybe I'll look for some kind of 1:1 13" comparison...

I have terrible eyesight (somewhere between legally blind and failing a drivers' license vision test) and I find my eyes are usually less tired at the end of a day working on my retina MacBook than they were after a day of using my old 1440x900 13" laptop.

Smaller text is more legible, and larger text is less jagged around the edges so both seem to be less of a strain on my eyes. My thinking is that the sharper the image displayed, the less work my eyes and brain have to do to fill in the gaps.

This could all just be me subconsciously trying to justify the purchase (although I have no regrets about it) and obviously YMMV so I'd suggest going into a store and doing a side-by-side comparison using an application that has been updated for the retina resolutions.

If your vision is correctable to 20/20, you should be able to appreciate high res screens. If you have other issues (cataracts, macular degeneration, etc) that's a different story.

It makes things crisp enough that those higher resolutions are practical. Sure, you can turn your font size down low with a low res screen, but you rapidly get to a point where the characters are harder to distinguish. Not so with the retina screens. Really you just have to see the difference. It's striking.

I wear corrective lenses and I can see precise visual detail still. And my prescription is -8. It's the same difference between a retina iphone and a non-retina iphone. You'll see more details in your photographs. Denser text is more readable and so on.

1) not really sure what the question is? If the specs are the thing for you, then go for the machine with the best specs. My macbook is plenty fast enough for me.

2) I like the retina display because I can crank my resolution up to 1680x1050 (on a 15") and it looks great. Font rendering on the retina displays is outstanding on apps that support it.

3) I can confirm that the Dell is not an Apple product.

I'd be unhappy if I had to switch from a retina macbook or an Air to the dell, mainly because of the screen. YMMV.

Fair response, the list wanted to be in question form, turned into hem hawing about anti-apple opinion. I'm still on the fence about 13" resolution and I can't seem to find resources to help me make the choice. Thanks for the reply.


Unless I'm mistaken the Air gives me slightly less horizontal space and slightly more vertical? And it's still a 13" form factor? How different could it be from the 13" MBP I run now aside from size/weight, hardware performance, and portability?

I desperately need a laptop for freelancing as my current one is falling apart and I can't afford to replace it at the moment. If you don't use yours, perhaps you could give me a discount or something?

Sorry, but this reads like a paid review (which you disclosed in the last sentence).

One of the most important things for a developer is a screen with as much vertical resolution as possible. Why didn't they put the 1440x900 in it? The Macbook Air still seems to be the best (developer) Ultrabook when I consider all specs. And it is by far not the most expensive.

> Sorry, but this reads like a paid review (which you disclosed in the last sentence).

If that's what stands out the most to you, there's probably nothing I can say to change your mind.

> Why didn't they put the 1440x900 in it?

No idea. I have no connection to Dell; I just filled out the form when they had public signups for the beta over the summer.

> One of the most important things for a developer is a screen with as much vertical resolution as possible.

Maybe if you do front-end/design work - I don't. I actually prefer the resolution on this compared to the Macbook Air - less eye strain when staring at a terminal all day.

> Maybe if you do front-end/design work - I don't. I actually prefer the resolution on this compared to the Macbook Air - less eye strain when staring at a terminal all day.

Well, just increase the font size. Having a larger resolution allows you to see the same amount of content with better font rendering (only because of the larger point size on a larger resolution, I'm not going to discuss Linux vs OS X font rendering again).

> Well, just increase the font size.

No way to do that globally on OS X, and it's not just font size that's the problem.

> I'm not going to discuss Linux vs OS X font rendering again

If that's what important to you, then yes, you're probably not going to be happy with anything but a Mac. This computer isn't really meant for people who are happy with OS X on Apple's hardware, if you ask me.

For me, I care about the display only to the extent that I get eye strain - beyond that, the other advantages of Linux (esp. on officially supported hardware) win out by far.

> No way to do that globally on OS X, and it's not just font size that's the problem.

You specifically mentioned the terminal, I thought that was your issue.

>> I'm not going to discuss Linux vs OS X font rendering again

> If that's what important to you, then yes, you're probably not going to be happy with anything but a Mac.

Text rendering is really important to not get eye strain.

However, I think Linux font rendering can be as good as OS X, that’s why I tried not to include it in the difference but just screen resolution. Higher resolution is always better, in my book.

> You specifically mentioned the terminal, I thought that was your issue.

In a different context - I meant that I don't care about vertical resolution, font accuracy, color accuracy[1], etc., because my work doesn't require that.

My problem isn't (just) the size of the font in the terminal (and the rendering on open-source fonts on a Linux terminal is perfectly fine, in any case).

> Higher resolution is always better, in my book.

On Linux, sure, higher resolution is no worse, but that doesn't mean I care about the marginal difference that much. On OS X, that's not the case, but it's not as simple as the resolution, but the resolution combined with the font size, and the size of icons/toolbars/etc., as well as the inability to change global font size, etc.

Because the fine-grained tools don't exist, for me, the lower resolution ends up being slightly better, even if some (theoretical) combination of higher resolution and larger font/icon size., etc. could be even better than that.

[1] So I can use tools like Redshift, flux, etc.

> I don't. I actually prefer the resolution on this compared to the Macbook Air - less eye strain when staring at a terminal all day.

Have you tried changing the font size on the Air ?

I mean, I can't see how a better resolution is a disadvantage.

After my retina 15", I have a hard time reading old dpi stuff. Pixel hinting is far superior to sub-pixel hinting.

Moving past 96/72dpi needs to happen faster. High resolution is only a good thing for reading. If you have eye strain you need bigger text, not a less high display.

Huh? Vertical resolution is needed so you see more code at once, not for design work. For badly designed code, horizontal resolution also becomes important ;)

> Vertical resolution is needed so you see more code at once, not for design work.

Maybe, but I've never noticed the difference with the Sputnik resolution, so I guess it's large enough.

I wonder why no one speaks much about the Asus Zenbook prime with it's 1920x1080 display. All reviews rave about it. Is there something bad about that notebook that I should know?

I got a brand new UX31A recently and the keyboard does not even work...

As in, the "backspace", "d", and few other keys will not even register. Tried updating and rebooting too. I returned it for another unit so let's hope it is just a few odd batches that has this mfg defect. Googling this problem should give you more details.

Thank you very much for this. At least one other person has mentioned it on Amazon[1] which I found after reading your concern.

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/review/R26SUGNEEZ4UDK/

I'm curious about this too. Could someone please compare the screens?

I can do development on a 1024x600 monitor. I think it's a "different strokes for different folks" sort of thing. Maybe moreso than you think...

I find the monitor to be the killer failure of this dell, it's not only smaller, but it's less bright with a more finicky viewing angle requirement.

The X1 Carbon is 1600 x 900 IPS, and works great with Linux (typing this on one running wheezy, now).

How is the sleep support? Can you close the lid and go?

Whenever I have tried to use linux on a laptop, I've never had this working right. One of the big reasons why I've always gone back to a macbook (that and the hardware).

This works perfectly for me on a 2012, 13" MacBook Air running Xubuntu 12.10. You can have your nice Mac hardware and run Linux too :)

I don't understand the reason for doing this, the main reason to buy the apple hardware is the ability to run OSX, which is just a much more polished unix distro than Xubuntu. If, all you need is to run Linux then you can use one of the plethora of other great machines and save money. I know this is what LT does, so maybe doing this is some form of hero worship/copy. He at least has a good reason for it.

Personally I have an Air with OSX and I shell into Linux for work. I can use vmware for a local copy if I wanted but I prefer to use my servers that Linode manages. That way when I loose my Air or it gets stolen or whatever, my work stays in good standing. Maybe I just never got past the old days, for me the laptop is something for running ssh, chrome and photoshop.

My main reason for buying MacBooks these days is actually build quality. The solid aluminum design is just insanely rugged, especially with the light weight of the Air. You could run an 11" inch Air through the tumble cycle of a dryer and it would probably be just fine--albeit a bit dinged up. My Thinkpads were always trashed within a couple years.

I also don't think you can objectively say OSX is the most "polished" Unix. Especially in the area of package management, which, as a developer, takes up a huge part of my week, OSX is sort of half-assedly catching up. And that's only with third party tools like Homebrew and MacPorts.

Other areas OSX is more polished. But as a UNIX it's not a clear winner.

I will second that on the MacBook Air. I take mine all over the world with me, and out into the field. My 2010 MacBook Air 13" has been beaten up like you wouldn't believe - I've dropped it (twice ) from a height of 5' onto concrete, onto it's corner - it bent quite a bit, but still performs flawlessly. It's with me in my backpack 100% of the time, and is treated very, very roughly. The only downside of the MBAir is how slippery it is (which is why it came out of my unzipped backpack).

My Dell Latitude 510 (and then 620) - both never made it past year 2 before suffering structural failure.

In the area of "will this work with the god-damned printer" OSX is by far the most polished unix distro.

More than any usability feature or GUI design element, the aspect of "OSX UNIX" that stands apart is the ability to interact with plain old consumer hardware...

Actually... I have a lot more luck with Linux than OS X in actually working with printers. Even though Apple employs the CUPS maintainer.

I transitioned from Macs to Linux over the last decade and I can remember Mac OS X before they adopted CUPS, printing was pretty grim then, but then again so were many other things in the OS. But you could see the potential, even as people like John Gruber railed against every minor inconsistency. It's a similar story with Desktop Linux and Android.

For the printers I've tried OS X and Linux on, OS X have required digging through the manufacturers website for driver downloads, while Ubuntu recognised the printers immediately.

I'm actually looking at Air now, and the build is what is making me look elsewhere. I understand the form factor is nice to use, but the non-replaceable battery and soldered-on SSD means it won't last long, and it's not that I can't afford new one every two years, it's that I hate to buy something with planned obsolesce.

If only they put better displays in thinkpads.

My main workstation is a two year old Air, with no problems so far. I expect it to last me another year, maybe more. My needs may be simpler than yours, though: mostly I just run emacs and web browsers. I rarely use memory-hungry IDEs, and never edit video.

> The solid aluminum design is just insanely rugged, especially with the light weight of the Air.

Uh... I dont recommend dropping your mac air.

Speaking as someone who spent multiple years with a thinkpad T60 and a 13in MBA, it's without a question the thinkpad is much more rugged. Be especially careful with the screen on the MBA. If you drop it even a short distance, the aluminum will be damaged, and it might break internal components such as the webcam, which can't be fixed without replacing the whole screen. I love my MBA, but certainly not because it's rugged.

If you wanted build quality you should've purchased a Panasonic, AINEC. If you want a "slightly nixy" whizbang OS but can compromise on package management you want a Macbook, but not for the build quality.

I prefer having military grade hardware (Panasonic), the best no compromises OS in the world (Linux), and the ability to virtualize Windows if need be. Just about had a heart attack when I saw your post. :)

I only wish I could easily virtualize OS/X. Come on, Apple.

“If, all you need is to run Linux then you can use one of the plethora of other great machines and save money.”

I didn't find that to be the case. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon was the only Ultrabook that compared at all favorably to the Air in reviews, and it costs something like $1450 versus $1140 for the Air. Thought about it. Couldn't justify the higher price. (Edit: Price has apparently dropped, see below)

Another contender was Asus' Zenbook Prime, which got mostly good reviews and is cheaper than the Air. But it's only slightly cheaper ($1080) and the Ubuntu wiki mentioned a bunch of ugly issues I didn't want to deal with: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/AsusZenbookPrime

Xubuntu (Ubuntu with the Xfce desktop) is my favorite operating system. I'm not settling for less by using it. I set out to run Xubuntu on a great, lightweight laptop with an SSD, and the Air was the most compelling option. Simple as that.

> The ThinkPad X1 Carbon was the only Ultrabook that compared at all favorably to the Air in reviews, and it costs something like $1450 versus $1140 for the Air. Thought about it. Couldn't justify the higher price.

This is not true. Lenovo (like pretty much every company except Apple) has regular discounts. You can easily get the ThinkPad X1 Carbon for a price comparable to the Air. Also, I would say that the X1 Carbon is better than the Air in many ways. You get a bigger screen, higher resolution, better keyboard, the TrackPoint, and a 3G SIM card slot.

I see that now: $1120 “after coupon”. https://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/web/LenovoP...

At the time, I was definitely not seeing it under $1400. It may have been before the X1 Carbon was officially released, or while they were experiencing manufacturing delays in September.

I agree with you: if I were buying today and had that information, I'd go with the X1 Carbon, mainly for the higher resolution.

I wish this were true because I'm dying for a new laptop, but I haven't seen a single one other than the Air that can compare in specs.

Does the X1 Carbon come with 8GB of RAM, a Core i7, and a battery that lasts 6+ hours? Do you know of a single laptop other than a MacBook (and the Samsung Series 9 15" which is too huge for 1600x900 resolution) that carries those specs? If you do, I'll buy it immediately.

My X1 Carbon has 8 GB RAM, it has lasted for 5+ hours without the battery getting to a critically low level (I've only had it 2 days, so I haven't fully tested it), and it has a Core i5. The only issue is that the Core i7 option and 8 GB RAM option appear to be mutually exclusive, so I went with the Core i5, and I haven't regretted it so far.

Also keep in mind that there are also several advantages to the X1 Carbon over the MacBook Air, which I mentioned in my previous post. The biggest one is that despite being the same physical size as the 13" MacBook Air, you get a 14" screen.

I'm the kind of person who believes that Apple's hardware is much nicer than their software, especially when it comes to their Macbooks.

OSX is awesome for most people, but for me I could never get a hang of it. The lack of having a package manager has always been confusing to me. A package manager is very similar to an "App-store" why not have one to keep things simple for developers?

I would have weird Kernel panics with the newest generation Macbook Air, this was very odd, but I don't fault OSX for it.

This is purely a personal preference, but the window management was a very frustrating experience for me. The OSX dock seems so unintuitive for me. If an application is open there's a tiny blue dot to signify that it's open. I can't really explain it, I just don't like it. There were a lot of odd inconsistencies when managing windows in OSX that I can't really remember but would frustrate me.

I'm not really saying OSX is bad, just giving you a perspective from somebody who thought the Mac hardware is much, much better than their software.

Download Quicksilver. Between it and Exposé/cmd-tab, I pretty much never look at/use my dock.

Maybe OSX is the main reason to you, but for most other people the build quality, weight, battery life, screen and design matter just as much. You can run OSX on other hardware or a VM too.

It's very much not as cut and dried as you imply here whether OS X is better than linux. Anyone I know who knows enough to actually make an informed decision about both, thinks linux is better. Almost to the extent that I'd make the exact reverse observation you make, that it's completely obvious linux is better.

However, I know many people who just don't know linux very well who are happy sticking with OS X, so I don't think that's a valid observation to make either.

GNU/Linux is Free Software, OSX is not.

Interestingly, sleep has been working perfectly on my Vaio Z-series, which is a laptop that (for various reasons) you would think would support Linux really poorly. I think the general state of Linux support has just improved on essentially every front in the recent past.

There is a PPA containing a series of workarounds, fixes, and hacks maintained for this hardware in the partnership between Dell and Canonical:


Color me impressed, if it is kept up over a three year time scale minimum. Also, here's an example bug report resolved with a kernel fix: http://en.community.dell.com/techcenter/os-applications/f/46...

Use of Launchpad is preferred, though, and one can see open and closed bugs here: https://bugs.launchpad.net/dell-sputnik

works well in my experience (I also have a beta laptop). I haven't pushed it very much, but sitting on my desk it sleeps when I want and wakes back up promptly.

I haven't traveled with it, so I can't be sure that it's handling the battery properly while asleep, but it seems to.

One problem I have out of the box with xubuntu (i.e., xfce) is that if I suspend it in a docked configuration (with an external monitor connected and laptop display turned off) and wake it up in undocked config, it doesn't automatically switch to showing stuff on the laptop.

Dunno if it's an XFCE thing or a Ubuntu thing or an X thing or a Linux thing. I'm too lazy to debug this fully. I just yank the power and reboot. :)

> I just yank the power and reboot. :)

I was using Ubuntu with docking station about 2 years back and it was having troubles getting in and out of the docking station. My solution was to manually xrandr it. This should be helpful if you don't want to reboot to get the display right http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Xorg_RandR_1.2#Using_.24_xrand...

One thing that works for me is setting up scripts using arandr for each display config. Then before undocking I open a terminal fullscreen and run the script for the post-docking config. The script pauses when asking for my password. I then undock the laptop and open it and type my password. The laptop screen wakes up no problem. I do the same thing when I want to dock it. This is definitely more annoying than things happening automatically, but less annoying than rebooting.

I did that too, but I went the extra step of writing a little Ruby script to switch between them based on the number of outputs xrandr says is connected, and then I bound that to a keyboard shortcut, so I don't have to mess around in the terminal. I just hit ctrl-alt-M.


This has worked fine for me under Ubuntu on my current EeePc and my previous ThinkPad X41. The only issue with sleep on the ThinkPad X41 was that eventually sleeping/waking would cause the headphone jack to stop working without a reboot (or a suspend-to-disk).

On my Asus Zenbook this works perfectly.

As a Zenbook owner, how would you compare the screen with Macbook Air's?

My first gen Zenbook has a higher resolution (1600 x 900) than the Mackook Air, but the colours / view angles aren't as good. That being said the newer Zenbook prime is supposed to have much improved colours / viewing angles, and also comes with a 1920 x 1080 resolution.


It's a bit funny.... the biggest problem I have with my current laptop and linux is that I can't get it to NOT sleep when I close the lid. No matter what I do it just wants to sleep. Seems to be the opposite of the problem everyone else has....

I had a similar problem with hibernation. I wound up doing slocate for 'acpi' and 'hiber' and then manually editing the script to do nothing.

I tried that, but the scripts already weren't doing anything. Turns out systemd handles those things now, edited my logind.conf file and everything is fine now :)

Failed with me once, in 2006. None of my laptops since then had any issues with sleep.

Works great on my X1 Carbon.

I totally don't get your display argument - how can a display with higher resolution and which can be brighter in any way be a disadvantage?

Also, but that might be subjective: 1366x768 would be way too less for me...

> I totally don't get your display argument - how can a display with higher resolution and which can be brighter in any way be a disadvantage?

I'd rather not sideline this with a discussion about resolution and brightness, because frankly, it's one of those subjective, "try it yourself and see what works best for you" sort of things. In short, I view high brightness as a drawback, not a feature, and the resolution + font size is more important on OS X, where I have a much harder time getting everything to a reasonable size for me in concert.

I'm willing to bet none of that sounds familiar - as I said, it's one of those things where, if you have to ask, it's not an issue for you. All I can recommend in your case is that, if you're considering an XPS13, take look at one of the XPS13 models and seeing if that display works for you or not.

You can always increase the font size or lower the brightness...

You can't do the opposite if the display does not support it.

> You can always increase the font size

As I said, that doesn't solve the problem.

> You can't do the opposite if the display does not support it.

Sure, but this display works for me, and there are plenty of things I can do on Linux which I can't on OS X (and which I care about much more).

If my problems aren't issues for you (which they're not) and you really care about display/rendering/etc., then yes, you probably want a Mac and this computer probably isn't for you. I like it because I've never been happy with a Macbook Air, and this is a Linux Ultrabook that "just works".

You seem to assume that you must use OSX on a MacBook. Actually, because that was the topic here, I was assuming that you would also use Linux there - that would also be a better comparison. There are many happy Linux users which use MacBooks.

Anyway, on OSX, you can also do a lot but you are right, there is no official way to change the global font size (afaik) (and you are also right that that wasn't really an issue for me so far). Anyway, most applications have their own settings. (Usually, I even go smaller than the default sizes to have more content on my screen.)

> I was assuming that you would also use Linux there - that would also be a better comparison.

Not really - I'm comparing what works out of the box on both computers with official support and zero tweaking whatsoever.

Even without the XPS13, I'd just as soon get another computer and install Linux on it myself. That way I can choose my own hardware, and I don't have to deal with the annoying Apple keyboards, some of the known Linux issues specific to Apple hardware, and (most importantly), the incredibly irritating delay on the Caps_lock key hardcoded into the firmware (which I believe remains an issue even when running Linux).

Mac min brightness is too bright in a dark room.

Mac UI chrome does not scale neatly to large font sizes.

Btw, I'm with you. I turn down the brightness of my monitors and have gray-on-black in my terminal windows.

For a while, I even went hardcore and used color-blind color mappings hotkeys via compiz to cut out the white glare backgrounds of web pages.

Thanks for mentioning the keyboard, I use the Das Keyboard too and the (imo) terrible Mac keyboard has kept me from buying one for serious use. How much have you used Lenovo's laptops? Can you make a comparison to their keyboards?

Edit: the older Lenovo keyboards; reading more comments has informed me that Lenovo's using chiclet keyboards now too.

I feel like I have to chime in whenever the newer Lenovo keyboards get mentioned: I've owned a T61 for over 6 years now and I bit the bullet and bought a W530 when it came out this year despite the complaints about the missing top row of keys and the chiclet-style keyboard.

It's been almost 6 months now and, honestly, these days when I got back to do stuff on my T61 it's a world of difference. The W530's key presses are much more substantial and have a better feel; the quality of the keys seem much better; and the seemingly awkward placement of they keys (excluding the Print Screen key) seem highly justified to me now. And more importantly, the chiclet-style keys are grew on me almost immediately.

I've used the MBA and other chiclet-style keys and the main difference to note is that the Lenovo keys are slightly concave. This, to me, makes the keys feel less chiclet-y and more normal, though they do have the visually noticeable spaces between each key. Compared to the MBA, the MBA's flat keys just don't feel right and I feel make typing less accurate.

That's great to know; I just haven't used the new keyboards so a direct comparison wouldn't have helped me much. The last laptop keyboard I've really liked was the Thinkpad T43 (I might be off by one or two on the model number), but it died a long time ago.

> Can you make a comparison to [Lenovo's] keyboards?

The last time I used a Thinkpad was a couple of years ago, when I was working off of a friend's. I don't remember liking it much; I think this one is better, but to be entirely honest, that was ~2 years ago, so don't put much weight into that.

The main thing that distinguishes this keyboard from Apple's is that the keys aren't as flat - I'm used to tactile and auditory feedback on the Das Keyboard[1], and while neither Apple's nor Dell's keyboards provide this, having the indentations makes it slightly easier to type quickly (notice how the Das keyboards all have slight indendations too).

Also, the BIGGEST problem with Apple's keyboards for me is the 200ms delay hardcoded in the firmware for the Caps Lock key. I rebind Caps_Lock -> Escape for vim, and this frustrates me to no end.

At the end of the day, neither you nor I are ever going to be happy with any laptop keyboard, since they're all non-mechanical, but I think this as good as we're going to get.

[1] I have the "silent" (ie, still-audible) one at work and the regular (loud) one at home.

> The main thing that distinguishes this keyboard from Apple's is that the keys aren't as flat - I'm used to tactile and auditory feedback on the Das Keyboard[1], and while neither Apple's nor Dell's keyboards provide this, having the indentations makes it slightly easier to type quickly (notice how the Das keyboards all have slight indendations too).

That should make a big difference; I'm amazed at the number of typos I make when I'm using a mac. Thanks!

I wouldn't lump all "chiclet" keyboards together. I really disliked Macbook keys (and I gave them a good long try) but the "chiclet" keys on my Logitech K750 are better than any non-mechanical keys I've used. I suspect that it helps that the K750's keys are slightly concave and (unlike Macbook keys) have the standard, .75-inch spacing between rows.

How well does it support multiple monitors? I like to be able to plug in two monitors and use the laptop screen to have three total displays.

Perfectly - I implied that when I mentioned presentations, but I guess that wasn't clear. If you want only a second monitor, it's completely plug-and-play, with auto-detection.

I've only tried n = 2 monitors with this computer, which works, but in my experience with Linux, if you have any issues it'll be with going from 1->2, not 2->3 (or more). Ubuntu's had good support for this for a while.

This is entirely dependent on the video hardware. Some laptops video cards can support two external displays while the internal display is active and others cannot.

While the Intel HD 4000 supports 3 displays, according to the docs, it only supports them when used with series 7 chipsets and the specs on this ultrabook say it uses the QS67 which is a series 6 chipset.

So I would bet that the answer is NO.

EDIT: REFERENCE LINKS http://www.intel.com/support/graphics/intelhdgraphics4000_25...


Interesting - in the past I've only ever tried 2 external displays when I've turned the internal display off, come to think of it.

So the XPS13 definitely works with 1 external + 1 internal, but maybe it won't work with a second external after all.

How are you connecting TWO external displays? I only see one DisplayPort on the specs. Is that via a USB display or can you daisy chain a DisplayPort?

> How are you connecting TWO external displays?

I'm only connecting one with my XPS13 - I've connected two in the past on my other computers (which is what I was referring to).

> can you daisy chain a DisplayPort?

No idea, though this page suggests the newer ones can: http://www.displayport.org/faq/

Looks like 2 external will work, with the built-in display disabled. This is how my Thinkpad W700 works also.

Battery life in hours?

Long enough for me to use at an all-day conference without worrying about recharging.

I'd estimate somewhere between 6 and 8 hours. It's hard to say because I've never actually run it down fully, but it still estimates another couple hours' worth after I've been using it for 5 hours or so. Estimates should be taken with a grain of salt, but for comparison, that's more than I get on my larger laptop, and comparable to what I get on my Macbook Air.

The Verge's review for XPS13 with Windows said 4:55, so with Linux it could be slightly better.

How robust is it? Does it use plastic or aluminum? How well does the trackpad work under Linux (e.g., does it detect that one finger is resting only resting on it, while you use the trackpad with another finger)?

Does it require any proprietary software (drivers, firmware blobs) for all the hardware to work? I'd like to have a machine I can keep upgrading into the future.

LTE support is for 5 years. I have'nt kept laptops longer than that... they are functional to an extent, but newer better ones come along...

I don't want to have to be running a five-year-old version of Ubuntu five years from now!

I see it comes with Ubuntu 12.04 - did you try upgrading (or replacing) that with 12.10? I understand the appeal of the LTS versions, but I'd rather stay up to date, and I'd like to know if things continue to work well if you stray from the officially supported OS version.

How much battery life are you getting on it?

I'm also in the market for a linux ultrabook, but considering the price difference I'll prolly go with the samsung chromebook or even with the thinkpad x1 carbon (yes, I'd pay a lot for a better screen resolution/specs-wise).

I mentioned this in another comment - I don't have an exact number, but I can take it to an all-day conference and use it normally without worrying, which is probably more indicative than "batter tests", anyway.

I was considering the Chromebook at one point, but I've heard mixed things about its support for ssh (connection reliability), so the Ultrabook seemed like a better choice even as a dumb remote terminal.

How are custom drivers set up there? I.e. can one use other distros there easily (let's say Debian or Fedora), or it's tied to that custom version of Ubuntu only?

I just think the resolution is too low for development work.

Did you ever compare the Dell device with other ultrabook hardware, such as Asus Zenbook, HP, etc? How does the Dell hardware compare?

> Did you ever compare the Dell device with other ultrabook hardware, such as Asus Zenbook, HP, etc?

No other Ultrabooks, no, though I've owned both an HP Envy 14 and an HP Pavilion before that. Both always ran Linux well for me. I've tested out other Ultrabooks in the store (all running Windows), and the XPS13 was one of the ones I liked more, though I remember liking one of the Asus models too.

Other hardware may be fine; the big difference for me is the official support (even if I don't use it, it's nice to know it exists). The XPS13 hardware hasn't given me any reason to complain, but I'm also not very particular.

Can you post some pictures of it? Thanks

Every time I read this I have to think to my self how silly it is to lead an article with Some things (particularly components like trackpads and Wi-Fi chips) take some fiddling to get working

Thats total balony, trackpads and WiFi have been well supported in Linux for almost a decade. It is _rare_ to find a labtop that when you install la fresh modern distro on it , things don't work. Yes every now and then you get a vendor who insist on doing something different, but most of the time its a synaptic track pad ( well supported ) and a Broadcom or Intel WiFi card ( well supported ). I can remember back in 2004 taking my Government Issued Dell laptop and installing Fedora on it and everything working out of the box.

I just got a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon[0] ultrabook 2 days ago and installed Xubuntu 12.10. It really is stunning how the hardware just works. I didn't have to fiddle with any of it - I had out of the box support for the video card, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. Even multitouch trackpad gestures work (although I personally prefer the trackpoint). The laptop itself is nothing short of amazing[1], especially once you wipe Windows from it. In fact, Lenovo TrackPoints have never worked the way I like in Windows (where you can use the middle mouse button for both middle-clicking and scrolling), but they do in Linux.

I thought I would dislike the new chiclet keyboard, which deviates from IBM/Lenovo's two-decade old keyboard design, but unbelievably, I actually like it. Having used chiclet keyboards on MacBooks, I never liked them, but Lenovo seems to have done it right.

Edit: there's one other issue, but this seems to be a (depressing) trend in the industry: decline in user serviceability of laptops. You can't replace the SSD (it's soldered onto the mobo), and replacing the RAM is not recommended. The price is quite high, especially if you upgrade the SSD (not recommended; just get a 2.5" USB 3.0-powered external HDD - I got a 1 TB one for $70 just a few days ago) or RAM (recommended; 8 GB is always good to have these days, and there's only one slot, so if you replace it later, you'll still have to buy 8 GB), so watch for sales/coupon codes (there was a good one for Black Friday) or use your college .edu address to get a student discount.

Edit 2: Lenovo also changed the power connector to a rectangular shaped one, because the X1 Carbon's profile is too thin to use the old, circular one. This means all your old ThinkPad power cables are now useless.

0: http://www.lenovo.com/products/us/laptop/thinkpad/x-series/x...

1: http://www.theverge.com/2012/8/13/3232132/lenovo-thinkpad-x1...

> You can't replace the SSD (it's soldered onto the mobo), and replacing the RAM is not recommended.

That's not quite correct. The SSD is not soldered, it is replaceable. The problem with the SSD is that it's not a standard mSATA part. The RAM does appear to be soldered to the motherboard.

Source: ThinkPad X1 Carbon Hardware Maintenance Manual - http://support.lenovo.com/en_US/guides-and-manuals/detail.pa... - SSD replacement instructions on p62; note the absence of RAM replacement instructions, indicating that it is not a Field Replaceable Unit (FRU).

Huh, I watched a review that said the SSD is soldered to the mobo.

As for the RAM, its absence from the hardware maintenance manual is because Lenovo doesn't recommend/support its replacement. You need to remove 7 screws and the entire bottom base of the laptop to do so.

I'd consider that reasonably servicable, but then I did once replace a hard disk in a G4 iBook.

56. 56 goddamn screws.

I'm curious what your experience with the Thinkpad X1 Carbon has been - I was one of the beta testers for the XPS 13 (as noted in my other comment in this thread). I absolutely love the XPS 13, but the X1 Carbon was the other laptop I would have considered getting.

It's been great. It's very light, has good battery life (5+ hours), and is responsive (only tried XFCE) so far. One of the great things about this machine is that it's the same size as 13" ultrabooks, but it has a 14" screen. Some people have said that the 1600x900 screen is a letdown compared to some Asus ultrabooks that sport 1080p displays, but that is most definitely not the case for me. There's more than enough screen real estate for me on the X1 Carbon.

Perhaps it's because I'm running a lightweight Linux distro, but I have absolutely none of the heat problems mentioned in the Verge review. The laptop runs very cool - much more so than my ThinkPad T410.

The trackpad is responsive, although I have little use for it. The keyboard design is fantastic, but the layout is a little annoying. They got rid of the 'back' and forward' keys next to the 'up' key, and I used those all the time in the browser. They also eliminated Scroll Lock, which I had repurposed as a keyboard shortcut. Finally, they moved the multimedia keys from Fn+up/down/left/right to Fn+F10/F11/F12, which is really annoying.

But those are specific to previous ThinkPad owners. The only other real complaint I have is that it's useless for 3D gaming. I installed the Steam Linux beta, and even a game as simple as Cogs[0] stutters. However, I'm not a big gamer, so it's no big loss. In fact, it will probably help my productivity.

0: http://www.cogsgame.com/

> It really is stunning how the hardware just works.

That's been my experience with Linux in the last 3-4 years. Almost everything just works for the "usual" settings. No more futzing with XFree86Conf files... :D

Actually, I would go further include the BSDs. I recently installed PC-BSD 9, and the only issue I had was some uncommon aftermarket usb speakers needing a one liner to be recognized on boot. Runs nVidia drivers, etc, etc.

I've been eyeing this due to its nice display. Glad to hear it works well with Ubuntu. How well does power management work? Battery life?

> How well does power management work?

Do you mean suspend/resume? It works fine with Xubuntu. I close the laptop, it turns off. I open it up, it turns back on to the lock screen. Then when I log in, it automatically reconnects to wifi within a few seconds. This is all without any configuration.

Battery life is great, I can get 5+ hours. But remember I'm running XFCE - things may not be the same with Unity or KDE.

>Do you mean suspend/resume?

Yes but also CPU throttling. With that battery life it must be working. Does it get very hot or noisy?

I just checked the frequency using the xfce4-cpufreq-plugin package, and it looks like the CPU is scaled down to 800 MHz when on battery (the model I selected has a Core i5-3427U CPU @ 1.80 GHz).

It hasn't gotten hot or noisy so far. The most demanding thing I regularly do on this laptop is watch HD video though, so it's not under that much strain. But there are definitely no issues with coding or web browsing.

>I just got a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon[0] ultrabook 2 days ago

Isn't a touch version of that coming out soon? Even if you don't like touch, it might be good to have if it's not too much extra cost.


Yes, I've heard the news as well. I have no interest in a touchscreen laptop though, particularly if Linux support isn't available. In fact, I would look at the release of the touch version as a chance to get the non-touch version on discount (as it will no doubt be once the touch version is released).

Tell that to the HP Mini 210 that I bought in April 2011.

Synaptic "clickpad" trackpad that claims to support multitouch: Sorry, only with their Windows driver. Not only I don't get multitouch in Ubuntu, but I can't even click or drag/drop anything. Ubuntu 12.04 claimed to fix the issue with clickpads, but it didn't work out of the box, and even after extensive tweaking, some features were still very buggy. In the end, I switched to a laptop that has a traditional trackpad without the multitouch bullshit.

Broadcom wifi card: Works fine once you install the additional driver. But there's a catch: last time I checked, the driver didn't come with the install CD. So I have to download it in order for wifi to work ... but I need wifi in order to download it. Ended up digging out an old ethernet cable from a dusty closet and crawling under another closet to connect it to the modem. Not pleasant!

Of course, most of the problem lies with hardware vendors who don't release fully functional open-source Linux drivers for their gadgets. But since when does the average user care whose fault it is that their trackpad doesn't work? The great thing about this Dell release is that all their drivers are fully functional and freely available as a PPA. Because without those drivers, few of today's latest PC laptops work with Linux out of the box.

Your doing it wrong [1] A Single data point does not a result make. Others have had no problems with that exact laptop. For a counter point I could never get the CD-ROM hotplug working on my old dell laptop in windows. Clearly windows doesn't support CD-ROMS.

1. http://www.linlap.com/hp_mini_210

> A Single data point does not a result make.

Just like how installing Fedora on a laptop 8 years ago and having everything work doesn't mean that there aren't some things that are perpetually broken on Linux distros.

Are you using "perpetually" ironically in that sentence or is the logical absurdity of what you said evading you?

(look up "perpetually").

It is quite clear what perpetually means in that sentence. Are you really trying to start an argument about semantics with a stranger on the Internet? Do you consider this the best use of your one finite lifetime?

I just don't understand what you're trying to save. It can't be or have a "perpetually unfixed problem" if it "everything work[ed]" at one point in time.

Besides, it's not like there was anything substantial there besides more hand waving old inaccurate stereotypes about linux.

See the second definition:


occurring continually : indefinitely long-continued

As in, every time I install Linux on a new laptop, as I have several times over the past 5 years or so, problems with WiFi continue to reoccur, and require some level of googling around to resolve. Yet, years later, with an updated distribution on a new computer, they occur again, perpetually.

The problem can remain perpetually unfixed at the distribution level if everyone who installs it is willing to spend time tinkering around to get things to work right.

But you're applying the data point of "I didn't have any problems" as your generalisation, I can say from having installed Linux on a weird amount of laptops recently that occasionally things like the trackpads will not have full features, occasionally webcams will fail to be found and/or not work properly and so on. But the thing is, that's just my experience with one specific distro (Ubuntu 11.04) out of the box, and shouldn't be taken for a whole.

Things will break, I fully agree, but for the most part they work really really well. I have installed Linux on scores of laptops , and I have seen some stuff just not work, but in general ( and I think you will find this to be the consensus around the community ) it works great and most laptops work with nothing more then a fresh install of your Distro of choice .

Don't get me wrong, for the most part things do seem to work really well, staggeringly so when you think about how much clout a free upstart like Linux should have. However, certain hardware has got poor support on Linux and people do get bitten by it every now and again, my argument was mostly your single data point, and my single data point and kijin's data point don't make a conclusive one as the same model of laptop might actually have a WiFi card from one manufacturer which craps out or one that works perfectly.

But for the most part Linux does cover hardware pretty well, and I've not seen a 'core' part of a laptop not work properly for a long while.

Dude when I install Fedora it comes with less power management options because of the _WINDOW MANAGER_!!!

I love Linux, but if you can't admit to how fucked up certain basic concepts are you are living in a TTY.

> Dude when I install Fedora it comes with less power management options because of the _WINDOW MANAGER_!!!

What do you mean by "power management" here? I am having a hard time figuring out what has window manager got to do with power management?


You can install any number of window managers on Fedora. You can even do it at install time using Anaconda.

The point isn't that it can be fixed. We all know the answer to that.

The point is the issue shouldn't exist. It's not about Gnome 3/Unity/KDE all deciding create the same interface - it's that they shouldn't have that power to begin with.

Once you create behemoths for managing wireless, power, the display, and rendering what do you expect to happen? These are huge artificial systems that prevent any actual innovation.

The Linux desktop needs awesome APIs and to use modern development practices that allow for decoupling between parts.

For the most part they have awesome API's used to manage those things. Everyone uses the NetworkManager API because it works really really well, and the XrandR API was _ supposed_ to support all the rendering configuration ( most free drivers support it fairly well ). There are also kernel API's for power management, but consider that powermanagement is a little more complex then setting some registers, there is a full stack of changes that need to be made, like when your screen turns off do you want you DE to know to lock the sesison, how about _when_ to turn off stuff, how does a cog type program know when to power stuff down if it doesn't integrate with the DE and X server. also how would the GPU know when to power down if it wasn't integrated with X11. when you get into the grits of power management it really makes sense to have it handled as a system. There might me some abstraction that could be done through D-Bus, but in the end its going to be a big integrated system.

    > A Single data point does not a result make. 
no, it's entirely reasonable here.

Earlier you claimed that linux support was good. It doesn't make many counter examples to contradict that. YMMV is not Good.

You had an experience where linux worked. Some other have been able to struggle machines over the line previously but this is not evidence of maturity.

    > Others have had no problems with that exact laptop. 
If ever there was clear evidence of platform immaturity, this is it.

It's common to read in this forum and others comments like yours, "oh linux has been well-supported on laptops for years" and then to optimistically go out and buy hardware, or try something, and find that you can't boot or similar. Just three weeks ago I had a hell of a time trying to get different distributions of linux (including ubuntu) to boot consistently on a three year old macbook with dual video cards. The problem seems to be caused by an issue that has been known about for two years, but with much fiddling in grub I couldn't get it to the stage where it would boot every time. And then there were all sorts of suspend/resume problems.

Wireless has definitely not been mature for a decade. Wireless on ubuntu has been mature from backend to user interface for about four years. Earlier than that there were all sorts of things that should have been done in the background being done in gnome tooling, and it caused suspend/resume problems on some platforms, and configuration was broken. Maybe a commenter could point out that there was some magic combination that didn't have that problem. Doesn't matter. magic combinations != mature.

Another favourite is where you install the base distribution, and things work, but then you make reasonable changes using the approved package management system and all sorts of crap just starts breaking. Flash stops working, or audio vanishes, or your display doesn't work in X any more, or your second display stops working.

Consumers and their whole experience of one are the only data point they use to make decisions after purchases.

Yes, but you can't say it doesn't work because it didn't work _for me_. I have found people are really quick to blame Linux when things aren't working on their Linux laptop , but they blame everything else before they blame windows when it happens on a windows based system. Thats why you should always check the consensus of the community* most of the time they can point you in the right direction

*I would just like to point out that in addition to having just a good if not better hardware support across the board , Linux really excels with its community and availability of online resources to fix most problems. I know some people don't like the idea that they might need to go look for solution and just want things to work , and I understand that, but I like knowing if I need it there is help out there I can leverage. Things will break no matter what OS your running and someone will need to fix it.

Not arguing against your point, but there's gotta be a fallacy for this. I know people that refuse to eat a restaurant because they got sick or the food wasn't very good a single time. Or they will never buy a brand of car because they know one person that had a bad experience.

I can imagine people base their computer purchase the same way.

Hasty generalization, or Unrepresentative Sample.

Here's the thing: On most laptops, most things will work "OK enough" under Linux. But there always seems to be some kind of small issue. And even when it works, it often stops working after an upgrade. Like my Toshiba that worked well until an upgrade suddenly made it unable to boot into X, or my ThinkPad that had the annoying fan running all the time for no apparent reason.

That's the problem. It means that if you're a linux expert and can spend some time fixing things each time they break, Linux on Laptops is great. And you're in a better position to fix things when they do, since you can modify the source.

>> But there always seems to be some kind of small issue

Another Toshiba (Satellite L650) owner here. I had major issues with wifi and display. Drove me mad.... Ubuntu forums were helpful, but ultimately ineffective. If I installed it on VMWare... no issues though.... what in the name of heaven is going on.....

>> It means that if you're a linux expert and can spend some time fixing things each time they break

And I didn't have that liberty either, plus you really shouldn't be doing this kind of thing at this day and age, if you know what I mean.

For Linux, I still have to fire up the VM, the RAM usage goes up, the machine heats up.... and the family has a field day teasing me about my obsession with Linux... Frankly, some days I wonder it it's all worth it to jump so many hoops.

That is the truth. I've had Ubuntu on my Dell laptop for years, and it was an entire learning experience to perfect the setup completely to my liking. It was great when I was young and had the time to play around, but recently I made the sad jump to a MacBook, because when it came time to actually work on real projects, I needed a rock solid desktop experience where I didn't have to constantly fiddle with my own computer. My Mac is nowhere near as fun or personal as my Linux setup, but it is what I rely on to do my work. Hopefully this Sputnik project makes Linux what Apple does in terms of the complete hardware/software package

Ubunutu on my new Thinkpad x131e can't change the brightness of the LCD and it runs the battery dry in two hours. Windows 8 can run for 7 hours with bthe brightness at 70%.

The track point sensitivity is too low and I have it at the highest sensitivity. (You need to turn the sensitivity in the settings to the lowest value to get the highest sensitivity!)

Don't get me started on lack of uefi boot support. Grub recognizes Windows 8 but refuses to boot it. I've had to install an msata ssd and put the Windows bootloader on that and install grub and a boot partition on the hdd to get useful dual booting.

Linux is far from a cakewalk on my machine.

You should take a look at ThinkWiki, they usually have good information on how to get around the little quirks of Linux on a Thinkpad.


I'll take another look. I didn't find a lot two weeks ago.


My device isn't listed on the wiki. I'll have to spend several more hours digging through various pages to find things to try. This is why I don't like linux for laptops. Windows 8 works out of the box. I'd rather just up the ram to 8gb and virtualize linux.

Have you been able to do that in a way so that power consumption doesn't get high? I try to run my laptop so the fan doesn't kick in in normal operation, and when I've tried linux under vmware I've found it gets hot fast.

I've got a thinkpad and have also had trouble getting the trackpad stuff configured the way I want it to work with extra utilities. That's the only problem I've had with it though. I wish the bios just had a way to switch off the trackpad, but leave the buttons above it functioning.

I haven't had time to do that yet. I mainly use the thinkpad for writing and watching videos when I'm away from home. Windows 8 runs evernote and VCL just fine. I go back to my Mac if I want to do development.

I think when people say trackpad support they want full support not just basic support, like there are many laptops that on windows have scroll and hot corners and stuff but on linux you may only get basic functionality.

This is exactly what most people mean. I've instead Linux on my Macbook Pro, compared to the support OS X had Ubuntu's was a joke. Same with wifi, it did not just work out of the box for me. And I know it's lightyears ahead of where it use to be, but that doesn't hide the fact that the default OS X experience was just plain better and hassle free.

Interestingly, I had the opposite experience with my trackpad: on Windows, it just supported the basics along with scrolling along the side. On Linux, it supported a bunch of multi-touch things (like two-finger scrolling and two/three finger button presses), both horizontal and vertical scrolling and circular scrolling (some of these were settings turned off by default, but they could be configured from a nice settings GUI).

That's not always a driver issue. The software must support anything your trying to do. Things like two finger scroll work just fine, however things like pinch to zoom , maybe not.

Not entirely true, wifi on the wrong chipset was a nightmare till just a few years ago, and even on the right chipset (Intel) there were problems as recently as Oneiric. (I installed it and my Intel wifi throughput went down to .5kb/s, there was an active and angry Launchpad issue about it.)

I just picked up a laptop for a relative that both had trackpad issues, lacked touchscreen support, and even had fn-keys that didn't work (you know, for controlling brightness and volume and such on the laptop) under Linux. And it was a pretty mainstream ASUS with Intel.

Dell Precision M4500. 2 years old. Trackpad scrolling: did not work. Wireless: not working out of the box. SD card slot: not working. Camera: not working out of the box. The list goes on. For me that was the last straw, after using Linux as my main OS since -96 I am now mainly a Windows user. I am too old to spend hours investigating the state of kernel patches to get basic hardware working.

I love Linux but the state of hardware support has reached a steady state in my opinion. Things break, others start working, then they break again.

I'll bite. Please tell me which laptops have fully supported graphics cards, including dynamic switching between integrated and discreet without reboot.

I'm not disputing your point, but as a long-time application developer (and of course general computer user), I had to look up what the difference was. I've never had the need to switch between them (that I'm aware of). In what circumstances does it become important?

Do you really not know that?

This is done to save battery life. In most situations the integrated graphics are more than enough, so the dedicated graphics chip can be turned off. If, however, that isn’t transparent to the user (i.e. happens automatically and on the fly) it’s nearly useless. Who is going to bother and reboot to switch graphics?

This is a pretty standard feature, available in all Apple laptops with dedicated graphics and many (if not all) Windows laptops with dedicated graphics.

If you don't mind me asking, what would you be playing under Linux that would require discrete graphics? Modern integrated graphics are much, much better than they were a few years ago and you should be able to play any Source game, for instance, without trouble. Now they won't handle Crysis gracefully, of course, but if you're resorting to running things under wine then you have to expect some level of breakage.

Plenty of other things use GPU other than games.

Yes, I really didn't know that — it had never come up for me. It sounds like it's mostly really useful with games and similarly rendering-intense applications, which I don't use.

Are you familiar with Bumblebee? It provides switching between integrated and discreet graphics without reboot for NVIDIA Optimus-equipped laptops.

Although at the moment it's a manual install, it should find its way into popular distros soon enough.


Bumblebee works well for me on a Samsung QX411. Once installed, just prepend 'optirun' to any command (like when running a game) and it will use the discrete graphics card.

It's good to hear Bumblebee works now. When I was researching laptops earlier this year I read that it was unstable.

Linux seems to work fine on 90% of laptops, but from a consumer perspective, I don't want a 10% risk that some little thing won't work.

You're right in that I can be reasonably certain that a laptop I buy will run Linux, but I can't be certain that there won't be issues. And I can't be certain that the random forum poster who successfully is using Linux on the model I want to buy uses their device like I do - maybe they never sleep and always shutdown, or don't ever use bluetooth, or don't care about USB 3.0, or never use two-finger scrolling, or don't need to access SAMBA shares, and so I cannot know before my purchase whether it'll do everything I want.

And so, I stick with Windows, because it is the devil I know.

So spend 30 minutes doing a little research before you buy? Seems like something you should be doing anyway before making any >USD1k purchase.

Why thank you, kind sir, I never would have thought of that myself.

Where do you research it? As I was intimating, all I can ever find is some person on some forum who says it's working fine for them. I have zero confidence in such "research".

"It is _rare_ to find a labtop that when you install la fresh modern distro on it , things don't work..."

Nunh-unh. I recently tried to repurpose an original MBA to Ubuntu 12.10 because it isn't supported by current OSX. While I was very favorably impressed by the current state of the Ubuntu out of the box experience, it just didn't work smoothly on the MBA:

* Sleep/wake wasn't smooth, often had to click the mouse or the power button to wake it;

* "right click" is an unintuitive two-finger tap that is often falsely detected as you attempt a two-finger scroll gesture -- the Mac convention of control-click isn't recognized;

* there is a persistent "serious problem" warning that pops up a couple of times every time it wakes up, related to a known bug with the graphics adapter -- it was harmless but would be dead scary to the novice I planned to give the machine to -- and it wasn't fixed after several weeks.

* After I plugged headphones into the jack, the internal speaker went silent. Ubuntu still knew whether there was a headphone in the jack or not, but the speaker never sounded again.

I finally put OSX Snow Leopard back on it and of course, everything "just worked" (including the internal speaker). The recipient will just have to live with end of life software.

This just isn't true.

A couple of years ago an issue with the USB3 driver broke suspend on laptops with USB3 for quite some time, requiring workarounds. Multi-touch trackpads took some time to get full gesture support. Auto-switch between paired graphics cards still doesn't work.

That's not to say things aren't pretty good now - but to imply that linux doesn't require some fiddling about under the hood hardware-wise is stretching a lot.

Mint didn't work on my t510 laptop (I bought the laptop refurbish three months ago after my lenovo t4xx die after 10 years of usage).

I reinstalled it with kubuntu 12.10 and the volume buttons doesn't work nor some of the fn+command keys. Sometime the touchpad just die and I have to restart the computer if I really want the touchpad (I use vim+tmux to dev so I don't need the touchpad unless I want to surf the web).

edit: As for what was wrong with mint. After Nvidia's driver update sleep wouldn't work, it would sleep forever like sleeping beauty unless you hold down the power button for several second to turn the laptop off and reboot.

Not so fast there - Radon graphics still suck, with both the official as with the open source drivers.

The Lenovo s300 with Intel HD 3000 however works flawlessly out of the box, with HDMI, audio over HDMI, multitouch touchpad, camera, suspend and everything. Just don't touch anything with an ATI card.

I always hear this comment yet I can still not get wifi to work on an early 2000's HP laptop with ubuntu. I pretty much just gave up this point

you just have a different value for baseline. I assure you that getting multi-touch trackpads ready for more than two finger gesture support under x does indeed remain quite fiddly in the majority of cases today.

> Some things (particularly components like trackpads and Wi-Fi chips) take some fiddling to get working.

Trackpads and wi-fi has been working for me for a long time(not implying this isn't a problem for many people), but what drives me completely insane is the video cards. If you are planning to run linux, seriously re-consider buying laptops with hybrid graphics. The graphic card might or might not run, the card switching will most likely not work, but you can ignore it since you can work with the intel card, right? Well, no. Most of the AGP, whether used or not, will eat up power, the fan will run at full speed and your laptop's behind will be hot enough to stir fry some veggies.

If you have a laptop with hybrid graphics, and you can't make it work, just switch off your discrete card.


Laptops in general, and linux laptops tend to run hot. However, don't mess with power settings a lot. Putting harddisks on powersaving mode(refer hdparm) so that they become idle puts unnecessary strain on the disk. You can try out experimenting with cpu frequency(cpufreq-set).

Nice, but that screen resolution is awful!

How did 1366x768 ever become acceptable?

I know it's a 13" screen but still...

What's funny is that they put this project on their IdeaStorm website when they started it a few months ago, to get feedback from Linux devs. Almost all of the higher ranking suggestions were about the need for a higher screen resolution, and still they went for 1366x768...

I was with them right up until this. Even the very similarly speced Lenovo Yoga 13 has a higher resolution screen (1600x900). I've nearly given up on using my 2011 Mac Book Pro simply because the screen resolution is awful.

It's not. Anything lower than 1440x900 is a deal breaker for me. I rather take a hit in performance than go down to 1366x768. You know something is wrong when your 4.3" phone screen has the same resolution as your 13" laptop.

Yep, that's what I thought. And it is advertised as "developer edition"...

How did 1366x768 ever become acceptable?

I think it's a combination of two factors.

First, at the low end, manufacturers emphasise the screen size, but avoid mentioning resolution, so in my local supermarket there are cheap laptops prominently advertised as 15", but they only have 1366x768 resolution. Perhaps that's what the customers want: a big screen that they can use to watch videos in their bedrooms.

Second, even if you do care about resolution, it's hard to find out what it is. It's usually advertised as some cryptic series of letters ending in GA. QWERTYUGA; ASDFXGA; WTFGA. Look at this madness! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphics_display_resolution

I wish they'd specify screens in size, aspect ratio, pixel density, and megapixels. (I know some of those are redundant, but shoppers shouldn't need a calculator.)

If this were a low end laptop destined to be used by everyone I could understand. But this is a high end computer meant to be used by developers and it's just a hair under the price of Retina Mac Book Pros and right up with the price of a Mac Book Air. The offering isn't quite as competitive as I would have hoped and for that cost there are a multitude of other options available that are better.

I clicked the article to check that. How depressing :(

Agreed, web sites today pretty much demand far more resolution than what we had in the 1990's. I imagine it's cheaper and that's why the trend has gone this way but this is a pitiful trend. I think it might be lower than new smart phones.

Yeah and especially tablets (with smaller form factors), so it's weird to hang on to this pitiful resolution.

I'm happily using a laptop at 1280x800, and though I miss the big monitor I used when I had my big beast of a machine set up, I can't say I feel constrained; I just use fewer screen splits in Emacs. Still, for $1500, I'd expect better.

That's the resolution of all the XPS 13's, I believe. The specs that are different for this model are CPU, memory, graphics card, etc.; things that are likely easy to change. I suppose laptop screens aren't one of those.

"... retains the pilot version's 1366x768 display resolution."

Why would Dell use such a low-resolution screen? My phone is higher resolution than this laptop. Visual information density is very useful to "devops" Dell is said to be targeting and hi-dpi enables this.

Linus Torvalds is right in saying we need a new standard (he is advocating for a new 2560x1600 laptop standard, see https://plus.google.com/+LinusTorvalds/posts/ByVPmsSeSEG ).

(edit - fixed resolution typo)

Yeah, i stopped reading as soon as I saw what the resolution is. I have a current 13" (ASUS u36sd with more ram & a ssd I put in) and really, the screen is the only thing I dislike on my laptop now, which I've had for over a year now. Give me more pixels :(

Although I also wish the resolution was higher, my current 13" macbook air is also 1366x768 so we can't necessarily knock them for a "low res".

> The launch hardware costs $1,549

For the same price you can get a MacBook Air with a 1440x900 screen.

Which also seems to have very good hardware support: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MacBookAir4-2

I think 4-2 is the 2011 Macbook Air. I've been thinking about getting the 2012 and putting Ubuntu on there, but there seem to be a number of semi-unsupported steps required to resolve kernel panics, you have to disable apic support and various other issues.

I regret that there's no good documentation for installing on the 5-2 (2012 13" Air), something I have to take some responsibility for since I run Ubuntu on such a laptop and didn't share my experiences.

In short, most things work fine on Ubuntu 12.10. I first tried using this guide[1] to install Ubuntu 12.04, but had lots of gnarly install issues. I then tried with the regular 'amd64+mac' graphical installer for Ubuntu 12.10 beta, and got it running easily. I was able to ignore most of [1] except for installing and configuring macfanctld, and making the touchpad perform decently using the advice in [2]. (Unlike the author of [2], I hate tap-to-click, so I turned the TapButton[1-3] settings off.)

There are still a few nagging issues I haven't fixed. The Air boots with brightness at the max and won't let me turn it down until logged in, and it loses my touchpad settings on reboot, so I have a little bash script I run to fix them.

[1]: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2039799

[2]: http://uselessuseofcat.com/?p=74

For a much lower price, actually. $1140: http://www.amazon.com/Apple-MacBook-MD231LL-13-3-Inch-VERSIO...

Or $1430 (still over a hundred dollars less) with twice as big of an SSD: http://www.amazon.com/Apple-MacBook-MD232LL-13-3-Inch-VERSIO...

This XPS does have 8GB RAM (versus 4), but that's the only big advantage that sticks out to me.

Here is a question (sorry to try and hijack this thread): this is a great laptop, but while we're at it, have people had good experiences with other ultrabooks?

My experience has been that things like EFI have made it impossible to boot linux on recent macbooks (I have tried!), and many ultrabook hardware just doesn't work on linux. Graphics won't show up, the thing won't boot, SATA hard drives not found, etc.

Many of the websites I used to rely on (eg, linux-laptop.net) have very out of date information. Ubuntu has a list of certified machines (http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/) but still, it doesn't tell me much about ultrabooks released in the past year.

Are there any new resources I'm missing? Or personal experiences people can share?

As for myself, I'm successfully running Mint on a Toshiba Portege ultrabook. But that is the flimsiest computer I've ever used!

For the near-1kg range: Samsung Series 9 (NP900X3C-A01US)

Ubuntu 12.04.1 installs & runs without modification, but some minor Fn keys didn't work (e.g., WiFi toggle button).

Arch Linux with systemd installs & runs fine, and it had great battery life because 'rfkill block all' seems to more thoroughly power-down those circuits on Arch than Ubuntu. (well over 7 hours with wired ethernet, plus Emacs and Firefox in heavy use)

I have the NP900X3C-A04US which is similar, but has slightly upgraded specs.

> Ubuntu 12.04.1 installs & runs without modification, but some minor Fn keys didn't work (e.g., WiFi toggle button).

This doesn't even work on Windows without their crap-ware.

I made a copy of their installation files, uninstalled it, and now run it only when I need to use those FN keys (that is - very rarely).

Other than this and the 4GB of RAM ... this is absolutely the most perfect laptop I have ever put my hands on and even beats out the Apple MacBook Air (which I sold after getting this).

I have one of these. The hardware is completely supported on Debian but I couldn't handle the shallow keyboard, so I went back to my Thinkpad. Probably would feel the same about any Ultrabook though. I miss the glorious screen but the keyboard is more important.

My ThinkPad X201 is great for the most part. There are some issues with the wifi. The wifi icon will sometimes disappear so I have to manually restart nm-applet. I also have a tough time connecting to public wifi (or the connection is dead when I'm connected), which other computers connect to easily.

FWIW, I use an ASUS Zenbook (quite a popular ultrabook) to run Ubuntu and it works fine.

EDIT: But I did have to fiddle a little to get the clickpad working properly

It's possible (and fairly easy) to boot linux (at least ubuntu) on my own macbook air 2011. I bet it's doable on any newer mac.

I have a Sony Z series, and it works reasonably well. The external dock/graphics card thing that connects via LightPeak is very cool but doesn't work at all on Linux. (To be fair, it doesn't work under Windows 8 either :P), but apart from that, it's been a great laptop.

EFI / Macs / Linux - check out rEFIt: http://refit.sourceforge.net/ (however, I haven't used it in a while, and I notice that the latest news on the site is from 2010...)

I have tried rEFIt! On my late 2011 MBP I was not able to get it to work.

So either I was installing and configuring it wrong (definitely possible) or it just doesn't work any more. (Or maybe a combination of both. This is the life of an open source zealot i'm afraid.)

:( sad to hear that rEFIt no longer works. I've never got a dual boot OS X / Gentoo console-only laptop working, but it was always my dream. So sad OS X can't boot into a console mode.

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